Information, Catfish, Freshwater fish, Species, Squeakers and upside-down catfish

Synodontis petricola: Complete Species & Care Overview

We’re glad you’re here to learn more about the fascinating and unique fish species known as Synodontis Petricola. This species, often called “pygmy leopard catfish,” is popular among intermediate and advanced fish owners due to its attractive appearance and behavior. With its distinctively patterned body and peaceful demeanor, Synodontis Petricola is sure to add a touch of elegance and intrigue to any aquarium. 

This article will explore the origins, appearance, size, gender distinctions, behavior, and more of this captivating species. Whether you’re considering adding a Synodontis Petricola to your tank or want to learn more about this fascinating fish, you’ve come to the right place. So, let’s dive in and discover the world of the rock-dwelling catfish.


Scientific Name: Synodontis petricola
Common Names: Stone Catfish, Petricola Catfish, Pygmy leopard catfish
Life Expectancy: 10-15 years
Adult Size: Up to 8 inches


HabitatAfrican rivers and streams
OriginCentral and West Africa
Care LevelIntermediate
DietOmnivore, accepts a variety of foods
Tank LevelBottom
Minimum Tank Size75 gallons
Water pH6.5-7.5
Water Temperature73-82°F
Water HardnessModerate to hard
LightingLow to moderate
Tank MatesPeaceful, compatible with most fish

Fun Fact Corner

One fun fact about the Synodontis Petricola is that they have a unique feeding behavior known as “upside-down feeding.” These fish can swim upside down, allowing them to forage for food on the underside of rocks, logs, and other surfaces in their natural habitat. This behavior is not commonly seen in other fish species, making the Synodontis Petricola a unique and exciting addition to any fish tank.


The origin of Synodontis Petricola can be found in Africa. Specifically, this species is native to the Congo River basin in Central Africa.  The rocky habitats in this region, which include riverbanks, rapids, and rocky outcrops, make it unique. The Synodontis Petricola has a high environmental adaptation level, and its appearance and behavior are greatly influenced by its natural habitat.

This species is known for its ability to navigate rocky environments and has become a popular choice among fish enthusiasts who want to replicate this natural habitat in their aquariums. Understanding the origins of the Synodontis Petricola can help us better understand the needs of this fish species and provide the appropriate environment for them to thrive in captivity.

Appearance & Size

The appearance of the Synodontis Petricola is genuinely unique and one of its most striking features. The body of this species is elongated and narrow, and it can reach a length of 4 inches. Synodontis Petricola is covered in numerous irregular dark brown spots, much smaller in size, and located on the head and ventral region.

The tips of its ventral, pectoral, dorsal, and anal fins are white, and the bases are darker. The Petricola has a humeral process that is trilateral and elongated, and its gill openings do not cross the pectoral fin spine. The body is covered in a distinctive pattern of dark spots set against a light-colored background.

One of the most notable features of the Synodontis Petricola is its large, downward-facing mouth equipped with sharp teeth. This adaptation allows the fish to easily navigate and forage for food in its rocky natural habitat.

The size of the Synodontis Petricola is one of its defining characteristics. This species grows up to a length of 10.2 centimeters (4.0 inches). They are suitable for a wide variety of aquarium setups and sizes because of their size. It is important to remember that a fish’s size might vary depending on its particular subspecies, the tank’s surroundings, and the diet it is given.

It is typically recommended to provide the minimum tank size for the species that clocks in at 30 gallons. Some aquarists suggest 20-gallon tanks, but the truth is, while these fish may be small in size, they require plenty of hiding spots, meaning a more extensive tank of water.

It will also give the fish enough space to move and swim comfortably while providing enough room for other tank mates. It is also important to note that as this fish is active and likes to swim, it should have a larger tank to accommodate its needs. Proper tank size and water conditions are critical for the health and well-being of the Synodontis Petricola.


Regarding the genders of the Synodontis Petricola, it can be challenging to identify between males from females. Both sexes have similar physical characteristics, and it is hard to differentiate them by size or coloration. Nevertheless, certain variations in the size and shape of their fins can be used to determine the sex of the fish.

Males often have longer, more pointed pectoral fins, while females typically have slightly wider and rounder ones. Additionally, the Odontodes on males’ pectoral and dorsal fins generally are more prominent. Odontodes are small, tooth-like structures used for territorial display and defense.

It is worth noting that the physical characteristics can vary from fish to fish. It is not an exact science, so it’s not always easy to tell the gender of a Synodontis Petricola. In some cases, the only way to determine the gender of the fish is through breeding behavior.

It is vital to understand the gender of the fish, as this can affect the breeding behavior and tankmate compatibility. Proper research and observation are crucial when it comes to correctly identifying the gender of the Synodontis Petricola.


In terms of its behavior,  Synodontis Petricola is one of its most appealing characteristics, making it a popular choice among fish enthusiasts. This species is known for its peaceful and docile behavior, making it a suitable tank mate for many other fish species.

Synodontis Petricola spends the day hiding out among rocks and other underwater structures in the wild, where it is active at night. They can be active both during the day and at night when in captivity and will adapt to the tank’s lighting schedule. They are also noted for being inquisitive fish and frequently exploring their surroundings, including the other inhabitants in the tank.

The fish species Synodontis Petricola is recognized for its solitary social behavior and can be kept on its own or in small groups. They are not known to be aggressive towards other tank mates, but they require plenty of hiding spots and caves. 


When it comes to tankmates for the Synodontis Petricola, compatibility is critical. This species is known for its peaceful and docile nature, making it suitable for many tankmates. However, it is vital to choose tankmates that are also non-aggressive and have similar water parameter requirements.

Here are some examples of good tankmates for the Synodontis Petricola:

  • Other peaceful fish species such as Neon tetras, Guppies, and Rasboras
  • Catfish species such as Corydoras, and Plecos
  • Peaceful Cichlids such as Apistogramma and Rams
  • Snails and shrimp such as Nerite snails and Cherry shrimp
  • Livebearers such as mollies, platies, and swordtails

It is vital to note that while the Synodontis Petricola is a peaceful fish species, it is a bottom-dwelling fish and may compete for food with other bottom-dwelling fish species. Therefore, avoiding keeping them with other bottom-dwellers like loaches or botia species is best.

Tank conditions

Providing the appropriate tank conditions is crucial for the health and well-being of the Synodontis Petricola. As previously mentioned, this species is native to the Congo River basin in Central Africa, and replicating its natural habitat in captivity is essential.

Providing the minimum tank size for the species that clocks in at least 55 gallons is typically recommended. Some aquarists suggest 30-gallon tanks, but the truth is, while these fish may be small in size, they require plenty of hiding spots, meaning a more extensive tank of water.

When setting up the tank, providing the fish with plenty of rocks, caves, and other hiding spots is crucial. It will allow the fish to feel more secure and comfortable in their surroundings. Providing an appropriate filtration system is essential to keep the water clean and healthy.

Also, because this species is not adapted to bright lighting, keeping the lighting at a moderate level is ideal. The fish will be in a comfortable environment and feel more at home in a dimly lit tank.

It’s also crucial to remember that this species is sensitive to poor water quality, so make sure to perform routine water changes and maintain the water’s parameters within the recommended range.

 Also, when adding new fish or plants to the tank, it’s essential to quarantine them first to avoid introducing diseases or parasites. By providing the appropriate tank conditions and replicating the natural habitat of the Synodontis Petricola, fish keepers can ensure that this species will thrive in captivity.


When it comes to diet, Synodontis Petricola is relatively easy to manage and is not particularly demanding. These fish are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will consume a wide variety of food items in their natural habitat. In captivity, it is essential to provide a varied diet to ensure the fish’s optimal health.

A proper diet for the Synodontis Petricola should include a mix of protein-rich foods such as high-quality pellets, frozen or live bloodworms, brine shrimp, and small pieces of fish or meat.  Additionally, some aquarists recommend adding vegetables to the diet, such as blanched spinach or zucchini.

It’s essential to note that these fish are also scavengers and will also eat algae, which can benefit the tank’s health.

Feeding the fish two to three times a day, providing only as much food as the fish can consume in a few minutes, is recommended. Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality and health issues for the fish.


In terms of breeding, Synodontis Petricola in captivity is possible but can be challenging. These fish are quite difficult to breed in captivity as they are picky when choosing a suitable mate and spawning location.

It’s essential to provide the fish with the appropriate water parameters, a varied diet, and a large tank to increase their chances of successful breeding. As the males are known to be quite territorial, it is also advised to maintain a ratio of one male to two females.

The Synodontis Petricola will often lay its eggs on a flat surface, such as a slate or a flowerpot, when it comes to spawning behavior. After that, the male will watch over the eggs while using his fins to fan them to improve oxygenation and eliminate debris.  When the eggs hatch, the fry will be able to feed on small live foods such as brine shrimp nauplii and will be able to swim freely.

It is important to note that breeding Synodontis Petricola is a challenging task and requires a lot of patience and dedication. Successful breeding also depends on the fish’s condition and age, water parameters, and tank conditions.


The Synodontis Petricola is susceptible to certain diseases, like any other fish species, if proper care and maintenance are not provided. The most common conditions affecting these fish include bacterial, parasite, and fungal infections.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when preventing disease is maintaining good water quality. It is essential to note that regular water testing, proper filtration, and regular water changes are required.

Bacterial infections such as fin rot and dropsy can occur if the fish is stressed or if the water quality is poor. Symptoms of these infections include redness, inflammation, and erosion of the fins and tail.

Parasitic infections, such as ich, or white spot disease, can also affect these fish. Symptoms include small white spots on the body, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

Fungal infections such as cotton wool disease can occur if the fish is stressed or the water quality is poor. Symptoms of this disease include a cotton-like growth on the body or fins.

It is important to remember that early detection and treatment of any disease are vital to preventing it from becoming fatal. Consult a veterinarian or a professional aquarist if you suspect your fish may be sick.


Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

Jason aquariume

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